Countless Shipper surveys have indicated that improving real-time supply chain visibility is a top priority for shippers. Many shippers are demanding a more granular level of visibility to shipments while in transit. Without the ability to communicate shipment status in real time, shippers need to resort to calling carriers, waiting for answers and then hoping that information was timely and accurate. There have been scads of articles written about this topic, talking about predictive automated solutions and full data integration, but really it all comes down to this:
Shipper: Where is my truck?
Carrier: I know where you truck is.
That sounds pretty simple and on the surface, logistics is pretty simple. Pick it up, deliver it on time and don’t damage it. It’s amazing how often the simple things become not so simple. Our customers are demanding to know exactly where their shipments are at any given point in the supply chain. Amazon has led the way in providing this information and many other e-tailers are following their lead. I know as a customer, I like to click on the link and have all the details of my order, including carrier transit information pop up on my smart phone whenever I need (or want) it.
In today’s world, shippers expect carriers and 3PL’s to carry the burden (read cost) of providing the systems to give them that information in real time. And many of these companies have met the challenge and continue to drive improvement into the visibility process. But in today’s data driven, data overload era, do we need to know everything? I prefer to subscribe to the exception theory of management. Unless it’s a problem, I don’t want to know. Show me only those shipments that are in jeopardy of making their arrival dates in enough time that I can be proactive if possible, but at minimum let me be the one to notify my customer, not the other way around.
As Shippers work to develop their procedures for providing real-time visibility, there is one other overlooked area, and that is misclassification exposure. The more involved a shipper is in communication with drivers, the greater the risk of the Department of Labor or courts classifying contractor drivers as employees and plaintiffs’ attorneys holding a shipper liable for a crash. We all know that any plaintiff’s lawyer is going to go for the deepest pockets and most often, those are the shippers. And if a shipper has indirectly touched a driver, that creates a potential for liability.
I believe the key is to forge strong reliable partnerships with your transportation providers and trust them to do their jobs by providing you with timely and accurate information that you in turn can provide your customers.
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